URL = http://www.ponoko.com/
"Ponoko call themselves digital fabricators who want to offer new freedoms to creators, and new possibilities of participation in the design process to buyers.
A creator can use the digital platform to present and sell his designs and cutting plans of a product. Customers who like a product design can pay for the design in the Pomoko online shop and download the files. After successfully downloading the files the customer can have the product manufactured by the producer of his confidence or by Ponoko. Then it is packaged and shipped to the customer.
Thus the radical new approach exemplified by Ponoko promises the division of design, payment and production.
So a product can be designed in Europe, it is paid via Ponoko in New Zealand and it is produced in a local production facility in the United States." (http://issuu.com/openp2pdesign/docs/cis.doc_open-design)
"After uploading their design to the website (in EPS file format), users can choose from a variety of materials. Ponoko then runs the design through a laser cutter. Besides offering access to professional tools to manufacture products, Ponoko also helps users bring their products to market. Once they’re ready to sell, members add photos of their product to their profile page, together with a description, pricing information and descriptive tags. If a product needs to be assembled before being shipped to customers, Ponoko delivers the bits and pieces to the designer. If the product is self-assembly, Ponoko can ship directly to the end-customer.
Equally important, Ponoko serves as a community where fledgling one-off fabricators and designers can exchange ideas and help solve each other’s problems. The larger goal, according to Ponoco, is to be a catalyst that helps bring personal manufacturing of individualized products to the masses. Users who aren’t interested in selling physical products can opt to sell or give away their design, for other manufacturers to produce and sell, which makes Ponoko stand out from creative consumer marketplaces like Etsy. As Ponoko explains: “By giving away the EPS files that make up your product, you allow other people to extend and improve your product, whether it's by trying out new materials, adding decoration or simply finishing the job.” Ponoko encourages licensing under Creative Commons, to stimulate users to remix each others’ designs.
Ponoko currently only offers two-dimensional sheet cutting, which limits designs to flat objects or three-dimensional objects that can be assembled from flat pieces. Plans for 3D printing are in the works. Available materials are plastics and various types of wood, which users so far have used to create jewellery, furniture, lighting fixtures and speaker boxes. The concept is mainly targeted to consumers who are good at the design part, but less interested in manufacturing, or just don't have access to the tools needed to produce something. While contract manufacturers are only interested in high levels of production, Ponoko takes down that entry to barrier, allowing designers to manufacture a single unit." (from Springwise)
"If you log on to Ponoko's website, you can find some 20,000 items -- housewares, toys, and furniture -- available for purchase. But Ponoko doesn't really sell products, not in the traditional sense. The items for sale are not held in inventory; they exist digitally as design files on the company's servers. What Ponoko really sells is access to rapid fabrication machines -- laser cutters in New Zealand and Oakland, California, and, soon, all sorts of machines all over the world -- allowing people to make stuff for themselves or buy stuff that other people have designed.
Customers use the site to make things they can't find in stores, like extra-narrow hangers to fit in an extra-narrow closet or business cards made out of wood. I paid $10 to etch my cats' names and my phone number on a couple of custom-made bamboo pet tags. Ponoko has also become a destination for undiscovered designers and inventors who use it to make and market their stuff. There is, for instance, the Bloom Lamp, which was created by a Los Angeles designer named Igor Knezevic and which you can buy for $160 on Ponoko. It's a bedside lamp that resembles a delicate flower and is made out of 18 precisely cut pieces of plywood encircling a light bulb. Like something you might pick up at a big-box store, the lamp comes in a flat box and must be snapped together by the buyer.
But unlike a store-bought lamp, this one costs Knezevic's start-up design company, Alienology, exactly nothing until someone pays for it. The lamps are stocked digitally and manufactured on demand. Ponoko cuts the parts and ships them to Knezevic; he inspects them, drops some instructions and a light fixture into the box, and ships the box to the customer. "Right now I'm making a couple hundred dollars here, a couple hundred there," he says. "But five years from now, people will still be paying a couple hundred bucks, and I won't have to do anything. That's revolutionary." (http://www.inc.com/magazine/20091001/the-future-of-manufacturing.html)
"But an online factory is only half of ten Have's vision. Digital manufacturing, because it replicates objects exactly and because it requires only that someone put the right material into the machine, can be done by anyone, anywhere. In August, ten Have struck a deal with a company called ShopBot, which sells computer-controlled routers that woodworkers use to make doors, signs, and cabinets. So far, woodworking shops in places like Buffalo; Rogers, Arkansas; and Olympia, Washington, have signed on to serve as manufacturers for Ponoko products. And ten Have also has a pending deal with TechShop, a chain of machine shops in Menlo Park, California; Portland, Oregon; and Durham, North Carolina, to do the same. The goal: Instead of buying a mass-market table from Ikea, you can have your own personal design -- or a design that you pick out -- manufactured by somebody in your own town, using local materials.
Innovation experts have used a variety of buzzwords to describe this business model -- there's distributed manufacturing, mass customization, and mass individualization" (http://www.inc.com/magazine/20091001/the-future-of-manufacturing.html)
"Ponoko ID lets anyone submit a request, including a description (purpose, materials, colours, measurements, etc, plus links to relevant images, sketches or videos if they have them), as well as their ideal price and delivery deadline. Their request is then sent to a selection of designers who can put forward a bid by emailing a brief proposal to the shopper. After reviewing bids, the shopper can accept the one that best matches their Once the designer confirms the transaction, the request/bid becomes a binding agreement. The shopper makes payment to the designer (through Ponoko), and the designer creates the item. Creating transparency for both groups, shoppers and designers can review one another by leaving comments in their profiles." (http://www.springwise.com/style_design/ponoko_id_lets_shoppers_and_de/)
- Reportage by Inc. at http://www.inc.com/magazine/20091001/the-future-of-manufacturing.html
- Mentioned in the NYT reportage on Open Source Hardware companies at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/15/technology/personaltech/15basics.html
- Personal Manufacturing